The World Trade Organization And You

Those American political and radical fringe groups who have dedicated themselves to protecting America from the mirage of a "One World Government" dominated by the United Nations should think again about exactly who their enemy truly is.

The most fearsome and powerful organization in the world today consists of; constituents appointed in secret by member nations; it makes decisions that can over rule any and all national laws or labor or ecological or food safety standards or any other regulations that the secretive group sees as a barrier to "unfettered global trade" for any other member nation; conceals from the rest of the world the process and records by which these decisions are made; and is dedicated completely and utterly to the elevation and worship of the global economy and global corporate power over all other aspects of human existence. Best of all, this group was created, not by underworld figures or the fabled "Men In Black" but, rather, it is the end result of a process of trade negotiations begun by all industrialized nations and inspired by the Reagan and Thatcher régimes in the 80's and which continued into the 90's until the treaties on NAFTA and GATT were signed and this group quietly and darkly took power.

Who are these people and what right does this group have to control so much power over sovereign nations and their citizens? It's what is known as the WTO (World Trade Organization). The WTO was established in 1995 to enforce and expand the provisions found in the latest GATT (General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs) and NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) treaties. It was meant to serve as a clearinghouse for complaints and disputes between member nations in which the final word would always be handed down by the WTO. Any nation which refuses to obey the judgments handed down are subject to massive fines and even trade sanctions by other member nations.

These fines and sanctions, of course, will inflict little if any pain on the larger nations such as the US and Great Britain and France but will cause economic chaos in, for instance, the economy of Chad or Guatemala. In fact, one such case of the larger nations creating even more poverty for the citizens of the smaller nation's in January of 1999. The WTO has ruled that the EU nations (European Union, their version of NAFTA) can no longer give preferential treatment on bananas imported from their former Caribbean colonies. The massive damage to the already impoverished nations comes because the US filed the complaint on behalf three two mega-corporations, Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita who are already responsible for two-thirds of the world's banana exports.

On the subject of the environment, two major instances stand out to expose the power that the WTO holds over the rights of the member nation's citizens.

First, the Biosafety Protocol, negotiated between 140 UN member nations, was intended to protect the public from the potential and very real environmental and health threats posed genetically modified organisms and foods. It gave governments the right to refuse shipments of these modified foods and was the result of seven years of international studies and agreements.

Nevertheless, what has come to be known as the US-led "Miami Group", a consortium of major Corporate American exporters of genetically altered foods and organisms, blocked the adoption of that protocol on the grounds that it conflicted with the charter of the WTO and constrained trade.

Even environmental regulations within our own borders has been quietly and surreptitiously over ruled and banned from being enforced, a decision that will result in huge increases in certain types of pollution.

In Jan. of 1996, Brazil and Venezuela challenged that portion of our 1990 Clean Air & Water Act which required cleaner burning gasoline, a requirement that forced oil companies to use only certain quality grades of petroleum for manufacture into gasoline. These two nations demanded that the US rescind that requirement because it proved a barrier to the importing of petroleum from their oil industry which contained a far higher level of pollutants than allowed. Those oil products from Brazil and Venezuela are already being pumped into your cars and the WTO restrains the US from labeling that gasoline in order to give the American a choice in the matter.

The Endangered Species Act is being intensely watered down by the WTO's decisions, as well. Shrimp producers from Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan and India demanded that the US requirement be removed for devices on their nets that were meant to protect the endangered sea turtle from becoming part of their catch. The requirement was quietly removed and hundreds of thousands of the remaining sea turtles are being killed every year in the process.

The food that you eat is being seriously influenced by the WTO, as well. Genetically altered foods and organisms aside, the procedures used in the growing, manufacture, and packaging of food stuffs are falling towards the levels of those nations with the loosest sanitary measurements and weakest enforcement agencies.

You can neither protect yourself from these abuses through knowledge, as the WTO refuses to publicize the challenges and results, nor can you cause any change in he practices since your government gladly follows the dictates of the WTO in order to open all markets to Corporate America and, obviously, Corporate America is thrilled to lower their standards to the lowest common denominator in that they know their profits will rise as a result. You cannot even complain to your representative to the WTO since the US has refused, as is their right under the treaty, to inform the public as to who, exactly, is "your representative" on the WTO's board.

Naturally, the global control of all markets by corporations will always result in the greatest pain and suffering being felt by the nations and peoples with the least ability to absorb that suffering. Corporate practices of lowering the prices of their food products imported into third world and developing countries rages on with the net effect of under cutting traditional native farmers and businesses. As soon as the local market is unable to compete with the cut throat prices, the local economies collapse, the local farmers and related industries disappear, and suddenly the prices for food stuffs increases far beyond the meager ability of the poorest to afford a nutritious diet. This sudden and great need for simple food enables other representatives of the global corporate economy to enter that market with slave wage jobs and find millions of humans available in a, now, very compliant population.

Those who speak out for the new vistas available for global corporations spout forth the nonsense that a free market is the best manner of enterprise that can be conceived. This rather inane argument, other than being absolutely self serving for any corporation, ignores far too many aspects of what, exactly, a free market is.

First, does the global corporate economy even depend on the free market for its survival. Not really, In as much as it has been able to use their properties in governments around the world to create and enforce treaties such as NAFTA and the WTO, the free market is undercut and ignored with the substitute being "money talks, humanity walks". To purchase a form of enterprise at the expense of the world's people is as far from "free" as is humanly possible to describe.

Next, do subsidence farmers in Nairobi need six lane freeways and bridges and airports for them to grow their crops and to barter with their neighbors for the other necessities of life? Do teenage girls making Nike shoes for seven cents an hour in Malaysia need massive communications constructions or huge strip mines to provide them with their daily intake of zinc or iron?

Only the corporations that demand these improvements stand to gain from their construction. Will those corporations then pay for these extensive infrastructure developments? Of course they won't. The costs for these projects will be taken from the pittance that developing countries can now afford that was meant to ease the hardships of their citizens. The levels of poverty will incrementally increase around the world. Even America will soon feel the hardships in as much as the vast majority of the manufacturing jobs are going to nations with little or no labor costs (China uses its prisoners to produce goods and America complains. America uses its prisoners as fifty cent an hour workers for American corporations and nary a word is spoken). As wages are driven down world wide, the American worker will never again see the times of employment at decent wages and with even a minimum amount of benefits. Our so-called "service economy" will collapse simply because service is not an exportable commodity.

Basically, the WTO has the power, and it is no accident you can be certain, to create vast, underpaid labor pools all over the world with no nation being protected from becoming the next target. Your air, water and soil will become fouled and deadly solely because some other nation has allowed that to happen to their ecology and so it would be a barrier to trade if we demanded any higher level of protections for our citizens. Carcinogens introduced into foods in one country would be forced upon unsuspecting citizens around the world because any restrictions on the purity of food is a restriction on trade. The prescriptions that your doctor gives you may make you even sicker or outright kill you simply because the process of extensive testing is expensive and to demand safety in drugs is a restriction on trade.

The WTO provides a web page in which it offers press releases meant to explain and clarify the processes and powers of the WTO.

It first offers a release entitled "The WTO is Not a World Government and No One Has Any Intention Of Making It One". WTO's Director-General Michael Moore claims that the WTO is not "an agent for corporate interests". He declares that the WTO's "decisions must be made by our Member States, agreements ratified by Parliaments and every two years Ministers meet to supervise our work". Defending the charge that the secretiveness of the organization allows the WTO unfettered powers unchecked by any nation's citizens, he declares, "...over 120 Ministers all elected by the people or appointed by elected Presidents, decide what we will do."

Before going any further, let's spend a moment examining just these three statements. First, if the WTO is not an agent for corporate interests, pray tell just who do they represent? I haven't been asked my opinion of the state of the world's economy nor was I invited to "donate" a minimum of $250,000 to the WTO in order to attend their Seattle meetings and to be involved in the daily workshops and to have the opportunity to hobnob with the same "Ministers" who will be attending to business already before the board (although Microsoft and Boeing and other representatives of Corporate America were).

In so far as the two year periods between the times that the Ministers meet to supervise their work, why am I expected to see my supervisor at work every single day? Why doesn't he give me two years or so before he checks up on my progress and work habits? Because, simply put, he would be a very inept manager to allow any business or group to be unsupervised for that length of time.

The third quote I find the most offensive simply by virtue of it so obviously being an outright lie. During which election that this nation has held since 1990 was there a slate of candidates running for the WTO Parliament or for a seat as a Minister? Did I miss something along the way, there? If I didn't elect them and, I have to assume, you didn't elect them then just the hell did elect them? Did Clinton? Did Congress or one of its committees? Did the head of some federal department of whatever make the decisions? Exactly who elected them, exactly who are these "Ministers and Parliament members who are not representing "corporate interests" and what, exactly, are their agendas? Want to know the answers to every single one of these questions? You will never, ever, under any circumstances, know.

Trying to soften the economic blows that the rapid theft of a nation's jobs and future entails, Moore states, "...the pain and the problems associated with technological and economic change are ... real. They are. And we must address them with the appropriate domestic policies: that's the function of governments". This statement flies in the face of the reality that the WTO has already exercised its power to force nations to change their domestic policies in order to keep them in line with WTO's agenda and ignoring completely the will of the people from that affected nation.

In another press release made public just before the Seattle conference, Moore attacks the cries of labor that the policies of the WTO will result in massive unemployment and meager wages and constant fear and insecurity within all nations. Calling the release "Labour Issue Is "False Debate", Obscures Underlying Consensus".

We'll leave the question of exactly what entails the "Underlying Consensus" since we have no way of knowing how that consensus was reached nor between whom or at what price to our individual freedoms and on and on. Such is the glory of secret proceedings.

Director-General Moore states within this release that open trading markets always improves the standard of living within that nation but completely ignores the ecological and human toll nearly always inherent in that opening. Malaysia's forests are being destroyed at an amazing rate in answer to the demand for cheap paper and lumber in the global corporate economy. The rivers in Africa are being polluted at a rate never before seen in order to provide the global corporate economy with cheap supplies of oil and other minerals and metals. The world is seeing massive and possibly irredeemable damages being inflicted upon the land and waters and air and peoples of lands around this fragile planet, all in the name of the global corporate economy.

In nearly every instance where a nation begins the long climb out of the destructive habits of fouling where the world around it, labor has inevitably been at the vanguard of that movement. It is only when labor organizes that the individual's demands for a clean and safe and unpolluted workplace becomes possible. That movement always results in more and more improvement in a nation's ecology and always improves the lives of all of its citizens. By allowing any nation to claim that strict labor or ecologically focused laws are a restraint on free trade eliminates the power of labor and hands it over intact to the leaders of the global corporate economy.

Gentle readers, there is simply no justification for America's membership in the World Trade Organization nor for the complete political capitulation to Corporate America in all of its economic policies. The future for our children is black and getting blacker, the hopes of the poverty stricken nations are being dashed against the rocks of pollution and ecological disasters. No more will national economies be able to rely on the industry and work ethic of its peoples as too many people expect to be rewarded for those values with economic and personal security, benefits completely foreign to Corporate America and their paramours in the global corporate economy. Your future and your children's futures will be decided completely away from sight by individuals you will never know who will make decisions you will only suspect when the effects come home to clobber your hopes and dreams. You will soon, if the time has not already passed, have no say whatsoever in any aspect of your freedoms or your governments or your lives because, with the simple expedient of claiming that this law and that custom is a restraint on trade, your freedoms and your very life become utterly insignificant when compared to the power of the global corporate economy.

If you would like to read one of the finest examples of double talk and outright and overt fabrications, you will find links to the aforementioned WTO press releases on the citation page. If you would like to learn more about the WTO or the meetings going on in Seattle or even about the thousands of protesters who have gathered in the city to demand major policy changes within the WTO, turn off your TV because even CNN is running little of any substance, just lots of Rah! Rah! for the WTO and sort of giggling like schoolgirls at the demonstrations by protesters. If you would like a reasonable report on all of the above, then the links to Mother Jones magazine's web page will answer many of your questions. Both the WTO and Mother Jones sites offer extensive links to many other sites which might shine the light of understanding a bit brighter, as well. Go, learn and reflect. The time to control this One World Government who rules through economic constraints is now. Later, even perhaps a few months from now, may be far too late.

To paraphrase Director-General Moore, "We're from the global corporate economy and we're here to help!" (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

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Copyright 12/1/99